Once, a twenty-something-girl graduated college with a degree in Computer Science and a job offer at a hot tech startup in Silicon Valley. She was smart and ambitious and proud. She was apprehensive and self-critical and an impostor. She kept the fragments of her stories on her blog and on Twitter @once_a_girl.
Why do you sign your blog posts and e-mails with this oh-so-generic girl moniker? Why do you blog about being a successful Silicon Valley female without revealing who you really are? Who knows if you’re actually successful, or in Silicon Valley, or even female for that matter? This anonymity certainly can’t be helping your publicity. After all, nothing you write is ever going to spread through the various social networks if you have no following. In this day and age, authenticity counts for a lot. Gone are the online days of yore, when monkeyblue255 and his ilk would proactively a/s/l you just because you showed up to chat.
The anonymous denizens these days tend to be the trolls, the dregs of Internet society who use their nameless and faceless identities to launch brutal attacks on others. More and more, anonymity is seen as a form of weakness, a cowardice of sorts, like maybe you’ve got something to hide.
To be perfectly honest, maybe there’s something to that cowardice statement. It’s not like you haven’t tried blogging publicly before. You have tried–earnestly tried–to put keyboard strokes to screen, to record the bits and pieces of your life and share those experiences with others. You’ve always been a diligent dear diary girl, and writing for you is a form of therapy. It gives shape and clarity to the messy edges of your life, and provides an outlet with which to examine yourself, your job, and your sense of self.
But the public part of blogging–that has and still is the hurdle. Because as soon as you considered that you were writing for an audience, everything changed. You wanted to post things that made you sound smart and interesting. You wanted your words to add to your personal brand. Hey guys, look at me! I’m a shining example of a girl who has everything under control! Come and be impressed by my veritable nuggets of wisdom!
The thought of neatly laying out your insecurities and hopes and confessions for your friends and coworkers to see–yes, you were afraid. You didn’t want them to think any less of you. The anonymity provided a security blanket, a liberating freedom to say exactly what was on your mind without worrying about how it slanted you in the eyes of others.
Would you have written about that male coworker who makes life difficult for you, or how you’ve struggled to speak up in large meetings if those posts were attached to your name? What about the fact that you’re secretly and simultaneously both cocky and insecure, but all you’ve ever wanted was to be accepted by the boys as a first-rate engineer? Would you have been so honest if you knew that your coworkers might read that and know those things about you?
In the long run, you hope that the answer is yes. You want to be true to yourself, the kind of girl who doesn’t care what other people think of her. The kind of girl who’s confident enough in her own fears and hopes that she can proudly wear them on her sleeve. Deep down, you know you’re not alone in your insecurities. The challenges of being a girl in a male-dominated industry are not unique. Maybe your stories will help others. Perhaps you’ll connect with other girls who feel the same. That’s why we write and talk and share, isn’t it? Because it helps to know that you aren’t the only one.
You aren’t the strong, bold, authentic girl of your ambitions yet. Yet. But as you continue the process of becoming her, your little anonymous blog in the corner of the Internet is the first baby step.
Have you ever considered writing anonymously?
What would be different? Positive? Negative?
P.S. I made the image unusually big to remind me (I hope you) that there's a true, living person, behind these words.